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Wednesday Jun 10 2020
Web Desk

Sugar mill owners challenge inquiry commission report in IHC

Web Desk

Pakistan Sugar Mills Association and 17 other mill owners — including Jahangir Khan Tareen — on Wednesday challenged the report by the Sugar Inquiry Commission in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) alleging that legal formalities were not fulfilled during the investigations conducted by the commission.

The commission, in its report, has accused the sugar mill owners of earning illegal profits in the tens of billions of rupees through unjustified price hikes, benami transactions, tax evasion, suspicious sugar export deals, illegal power production, misuse of subsidy and purchasing sugarcane off the books.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah will take up the case tomorrow, in which the federal government, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar, interior ministry, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), FIA chief Wajid Zia and other departments were made respondents.

The petitioners have called for the sugar inquiry report released on May 21 to be declared void and the actions ordered by the prime minister in this regard suspended.

Read also: Shahzad Akbar unveils govt's comprehensive plan to hold 'sugar daddies' to account

The plea, filed by Advocate Salman Akram Raja, stated: "The scope of the Impugned report clearly exceeds the constitutional mandate and limitations of a Federal Commission of Inquiry constituted under the 2017 Act, as it trespasses into matters within the exclusive legislative and executive domains of the Provinces. The entire inquiry has been carried out in a completely illegal, unlawful, opaque, biased and discriminatory manner."

"It has been conducted in complete contravention to the requirements of the 2017 Act and the relevant terms of reference. The principle of natural justice as well as the Fundamental Rights of the petitioners including the right to due process, fair trial and non-discrimination have been violated," read the petition.

It was filed after the government’s announcement that it is forwarding cases to the National Accountability Bureau, FIA and other federal agencies to take punitive actions against those involved in the scandal.

The premier's aide on accountability, Shahzad Akbar, on Sunday unveiled a comprehensive action plan outlined by the government to take to task the "sugar daddies" identified by the sugar inquiry commission as well as for an overall overhauling of the regulatory framework which had all the while "been in cahoots with the sugar mills".

Akbar said that no matter how powerful a person is, no matter the party he belongs to, or however wealthy, "no exceptions can be created" for anyone, and this was the line of inquiry followed by the probe commission.

"Transparency is of the utmost importance when it comes to accountability. Before we take action over whatever matter is being pursued, it must be put before the people. That is why the report was made public," said the premier's aide.

He said the public, farmers, as well as the industrial experts had been consulted over an “action matrix” that was developed.

PM approves action plan

Meanwhile, briefing the media today about the steps approved by the prime minister, Akbar said that the "sugar mafia" is very powerful and has connections within departments but the government is committed to take this matter to its logical conclusion.

“The action plan has been prepared in the light of recommendations given by the inquiry commission,” he said adding “some individuals have been named in the sugar scandal.”

The departments concerned have already been directed to proceed and a reference regarding the subsidy issue has been sent to the NAB under Section 9 of NAO.

Reacting to the PSMA’s petition in the IHC, the SAPM said “it is too late now.”